In all of the excitement created by the results of the recent election and apparent change in direction of the country, let’s not forget about God’s election. That election turns on the pivotal statement Jesus made in Matthew 22:14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
This statement summarizes a parable of a wedding where those who had been invited were not responding. They were thus unworthy to attend, so were rejected. It goes beyond that group, too, and rejects anyone who might try to attend without the proper attire, in this case, the robe of righteousness provided by Jesus Christ. Here is the passage in Matthew 22:1-14:
“And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, ‘See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.’
But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.’”
The truth of the parable is beautifully summarized in John 1:11-13:
“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Of the many who are called, those who are chosen, then, are those who believe in His name and are born of God. “Born-again,” as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:7, “Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.”
The “calling,” then, is the telling of the good news of the gospel, as in Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”
The “chosen” are those who respond and receive the gift of eternal life.
The challenge in understanding how this comes about has divided the Body of Christ for centuries. On the one hand are the clear biblical declarations of God’s foreknowledge, His choosing, predestination, election, and on the other hand is the steady and unrelenting demand throughout the Bible, especially the New Testament, that a person must believe in Christ to be saved.
Mortal man, having inherited the fallen nature caused by Adam’s disobedience and so recorded in Genesis 3, is described in Romans 3:10-18 as wanting nothing to do with God:
“There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.
“Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood;
destruction and misery are in their ways, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
A little later Paul tells us that familiar inclusive truth that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (v. 23), yet adding, “…being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (v. 24).
Finding out what happens between verses 23 and 24 is what this article is about.
Recognizing, hopefully, that God does not lie about foreknowledge, predestination, chosen before the foundation of the world, and election, how is mortal man, in his total depravity, turned around and made to want to believe and become righteous before God? The unwritten story of what happened between the declarations of those two verses is the target of this article.
What a dilemma! In this scenario, probably the two most important words in the Bible are, “But God…!”
There is an old saying that fits in here very well: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. (But you san salt his oats!).”
God’s secret weapon is revealed in Romans 2 where we find the answer, also, of why Jesus is the only way to God and heaven and why those who have never heard of Jesus will not go to heaven because of that reason—they must believe in Him. It is the imprint of God’s moral law upon the conscience of every person who has ever lived since creation. At the disobedience of Adam and Eve that imprint has remained and we see it in our basic realization between what is right and what is wrong in moral issues. Look how it unfolds in Romans 2:12-16:
“For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”
When James tells us in James 2:10, that “whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all,” it is clear that if God’s rule of justice applies to those who only have their conscience’s moral imprint to guide them, then their failure to keep the law demands God’s mercy just as much as those who have the written commandments to guide them.
It also makes certain the truth of Romans 3:20, “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (“The just shall live by fait,” Romans 1:17.) God tells us in 2 Peter 3:9 that He “is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
There can be no repentance unless there is the knowledge and acceptance of guilt—of sinfulness—and only then can God’s mercy be obtained. And with mercy comes grace and the gift of faith and forgiveness and justification. Then we can see the result that is told in Romans 3:24, as mentioned above.
The weight of the law, as much or as little as it may be, upon a person’s conscience brings the sense of guilt. The stirring of response to this is where God steps into the struggle, as John 6:44 describes it in the words of Jesus: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
It is said that the strength of that word, “draws,” in the Greek is equal to “drags.” That “born again” experience, as testified in John 1:13 and John 3:3, is a “God thing,” accomplished by the Holy Spirit. No two such experiences are exactly alike, for the admission of guilt before God finds resistance in the mortal man of varying degrees.
A contrast of these responses is told by Jesus in Luke 18:6-14 in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector:
“Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’
“And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ ‘I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’”
Many years ago in England, William Carey, now called the “father of modern missions,” agonized with his Christian peers about the need to go tell the gospel to the unreached multitudes and was rebuked with the retort (in essence), “If God wants those people saved, He will take care of it; you don’t have to go there!” But Paul wrote in Romans 10:13-15 and 17:
“For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? …So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Paul also had this to say about his own commitment to the mission of the gospel being preached everywhere: “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10). Even the elect, the chosen, must hear the Word and believe, according to God’s plan, apparently.
Remember, God said He was going to “take out of the Gentiles a people for His name” (Acts 15:14). When He says it, He means it, and we can be sure of it.
If a person’s conscience is not “seared” to deadness, and many have been, that twinge of guilt in response to a moral issue is God’s nudging that person to make a positive response and recognize his sinfulness and seek forgiveness.
Again, as Romans 3:20 says, “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” He, thereby, “salts our oats,” in a sense, and causes us to thirst for righteousness, and you remember that Jesus said, “the truly happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filed” (Matthew 5:6).
A great Scripture that tells of that continual presence of the Lord, seeking that relationship with man is Revelation 3:20:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”
(Notice that He addresses “anyone,” and He would “come in to him.”)
That knocking on a life’s door is the calling; when a person opens that door, and Jesus comes in, he finds out that he is among the chosen.
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